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Bridgeforth v. Justice of The Peace Court 13

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 19, 2014

OTIS MICHAEL BRIDGEFORTH, Plaintiff,
v.
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURT 13 and JUDGE BA WA, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

GREGORY M. SLEET, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Otis Michael Bridgeforth ("Bridgeforth"), filed this lawsuit alleging race, color, sex, and religious discrimination.[1] (D.I. 2.) He appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.I. 4.) The court proceeds to review and screen the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

I. BACKGROUND

Bridgeforth alleges that on April 25, 2014, he filed a lawsuit against Kyle Riley in the Justice of the Peace Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County, Court No. 13. Bridgeforth alleges that during the course of the proceedings, he suffered unduly and unreasonable violations of his constitutional rights when he was not afforded a fair and impartial hearing, when the court ruled against him and denied a no filing fee application. Bridgeforth seeks compensatory damages and injunctive relief.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

This court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma pauperis actions that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because Bridgeforth proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).

An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), a court may dismiss a complaint as frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory" or a "clearly baseless" or "fantastic or delusional" factual scenario. Neitzke, 490 at 327-28; Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); see, e.g., Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1091-92 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding frivolous a suit alleging that prison officials took an inmate's pen and refused to give it back).

The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on 12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)). However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of28 U.S.C. § 1915, the court must grant Bridgeforth leave to amend his complaint unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hasp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002).

A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The assumption of truth is inapplicable to legal conclusions or to "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements." Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. When determining whether dismissal is appropriate, the court must take three steps: "(1) identify[] the elements of the claim, (2) review[] the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) look[] at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluat[e] whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged." Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in the complaint "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

III. DISCUSSION

Bridgeforth has sued the Justice of the Peace Court 13 and Judge Bawa. Both are immune from suit. Plaintiff's claims against the Justice of the Peace Court 13 are barred by the State's Eleventh Amendment immunity. See MCI Telecom. Corp. v. Bell Atl. of Pa., 271 F.3d 491, 503 (3d Cir. 2001). The Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution protects a nonconsenting state or state agency from a suit brought in federal court by one of its own citizens, regardless of the relief sought. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hasp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89 (1984); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974). Delaware has not waived its immunity from suit in federal court; although Congress can abrogate a state's sovereign immunity, it did not do so through the enactment of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Brooks-McCollum v. Delaware, 213 F.Appx. 92, 94 (3d Cir. 2007) (unpublished). In addition, dismissal is appropriate because the foregoing defendant is not a person for purposes of § 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Calhoun v. Young, 288 F.Appx. 47 (3d Cir. 2008) (unpublished).

Similarly, Judge Bawa is immune from suit. "A judicial officer in the performance of his duties has absolute immunity from suit and will not be liable for his judicial acts." Capogrosso v. The Supreme Court of New Jersey, 588 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). The complaint contains no allegations that Judge Bawa acted outside the scope of his judicial capacity or in the absence of his jurisdiction. See Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991). Bridgeforth's complaint is that he was not granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

Accordingly, the complaint will be dismissed based upon the immunity of the defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii).

IV. CONCLUSION

For the above reasons, the court will dismiss the complaint as the defendants are immune from suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii). Amendment of the complaint would be futile. See Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229 (3d Cir. 2004); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 111 (3d Cir. 2002); Borelli v. City of Reading, 532 F.2d 950, 951-52 (3d Cir.

An appropriate order will be entered.


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